One of my goals this summer was to raise the bar on my photo-taking skills. I want to be able to take frame-worthy pictures of our family myself, instead of just waiting for our annual photo sessions. After looking at all the beautiful eye candy on Pinterest for so long, I finally decided to act on this old dream of mine. I subscribed to photography blogs, read and re-read my camera manual, clipped an array of tutorials and took a ton of pictures—more than 400 in the past 30 days alone.
(On a sad note, my tinkering with the camera went very wrong one day when I accidentally deleted all the photos and videos I’d taken on my camera from the beginning of the year through mid-July. I nearly cried that day.)
Despite all the information I was consuming, the photography how to’s continued to be a jumbled mess in my head. I had a hard time remembering aperture from ISO, the rules of composition and even how to find all those cool features I’d read about in my camera manual. With every blurry picture, I grew more and more frustrated, wondering why I’d started on this silly project to begin with. It was obvious I wasn’t a natural.
Then, just when I was on the edge of resigning myself to defeat, I remembered my guitar playing experience.
Like so many other hobbies I’ve tried, I bounced my way into that first class with high aspirations of becoming the next Jimi Hendrix. I think I was only 10 minutes into the class before I realized I’d severely underestimated the skill and dexterity required to achieve any level of competence on the guitar.
My fingers struggled to stretch from one note to the next. The tips of my fingers hurt so bad from strumming that I wanted to cry from the pain. I scolded myself for being crazy enough to think I could play a guitar.
My teacher, having played and taught lessons for more many, many years, was a patient man. “Keep on playing,” he’d say whenever I vented my frustrations to him. “Practice, and then practice some more.”
I begrudgingly followed his advice. I’d sit at my dining room table practicing and then practicing again until one day I realized my fingers didn’t hurt much any more. I could even fumble my way up and down the scale and play a very rudimentary version of a few nursery songs. Every time I showed off something new I’d learned during my class thinking I was hot stuff, my teacher would remind me, “Keep on playing.”
My guess is that taking pictures is a lot like playing the guitar. Rather than give up, I’ve decided to keep on playing–to continue taking more pictures, reading tutorials and taking classes. It’ll take some time, but one day, it’ll all start to click. I’ll get exposure and capture the perfect bokeh. Manual mode won’t overwhelm me anymore. Until then, I’ll keep on playing.
Are you like me and tackling a new hobby or trying something you’ve never done before? Try not to give up when it seems like progress is eluding you. Just keep on playing.